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the laugh track

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Walter C, Dec 12, 2006.

  1. Walter C

    Walter C Screenwriter

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    I just have to ask...

    Why the sudden hatred of it? Or have people have always hated it all along?

    I notice that people get easily annoyed with the laugh track in today's shows like The Class, but yet, it doesn't bother them with past shows like Diff'rent Strokes. I thought it was louder and more annoying back then.

    Even worse is the applause and the ovation cheer when a big-time celebrity shows up for the first time.
     
  2. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    I don't need to be told when to laugh. [​IMG] A live audience (like Seinfeld) isn't so bad but alot of older shows have the phoniest canned laughtracks to pump up the laughter and it just takes me out of the show. I'm not the biggest sitcom fan so I may not be the best judge though.
     
  3. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    I don't think people have ever really liked it, but circumstances have changed enough in the past few years to make it a bigger target. Writers and producers are more visible, and able to make their disdain for it public. More comedies are shot in an audience-free environment (or animated), which makes the laugh track seem even more bizarre. And enough "hybrid" shows have been successful, like Ally McBeal and Gilmore Girls, that the audience has been weaned off associating television comedy with the track.
     
  4. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Producer

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    Bigger problem: comedies that aren't funny.
     
  5. Walter C

    Walter C Screenwriter

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    That would explain why people hate it when watching today's shows.

    The only odd thing to me, is that it doesn't come up at all when talking about older shows, especially ones from the 70's.
     
  6. Gary Seven

    Gary Seven Grand Poo Pah

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    70's shows were generally filmed in front of a live audience... a trend started with All in the Family, I believe. Happy Days used a laugh track initially but that too moved to filming in front of a live audience.

    60's shows generally used a laugh track.
     
  7. Rob P S

    Rob P S Screenwriter

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    A laugh track only bothers me when the show is not funny.
     
  8. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

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    I think the biggest thing is just that there are so many great laugh-track free comedies these days - Arrested Development, Scrubs, The Office, Malcolm, Curb Your Enthusiasm - that get laughs from the home audience because they are just funny. Plus, you have releases of laugh-tracked shows like M*A*S*H that have a non-laugh-track option. Suddenly people are realising how much of an intrusion the laugh-track is. Plus, it now feels a bit like a relic from the past.

    Back when they were making Diff'rent Strokes, the laugh-track was just part of the format for a comedy, so no-one really thought to question it. These days, we know better.

    And let's be honest - it is a bit of an intrusion, and makes the whole thing feel artficial.
     
  9. LarryDavenport

    LarryDavenport Screenwriter

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    I think I hate the live audience even more than the laugh track. To me, it ruined Happy Days. I think the show was a lot better when it was filmed. I hated when people screamed when the Fonz appeared. You'd think he was The Beatles.
     
  10. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    ^^Similarly to Seinfeld. I'm glad to find out that Larry David put a stop to people screaming over the Kramer entrance. That gets annoying because you can see it in the actors faces - the "wait for the applause to die down so I can say my line".

    The worst case of this was in the Marine Biologist where Kramers says "Is that a Titelist?" - The crowd was going so nuts over Georges reveal that Michael Richards is just sitting there (trying to maintain disbelief) while Jerry is just staring at him. That scene would have been better if not for that awkward pause in the middle, while waiting for the audience to settle down.
     
  11. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    Canned laugh tracks were recorded in the 1950's. All those people are dead now. The dead are laughing at you. Laughing at you from beyond the grave!.

    I'll shut up now.
     
  12. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    I completely understand what you're saying but I actually like the audience's reaction to that scene because they just went nuts and the reaction is very real. It's definitely awkward but since it's a rare occurence for the series to have that kind of a 'too long laugh', I kinda dig it.

    And they should give Larry a medal for curbing audience cheers for Kramer entrances. [​IMG]
     
  13. Sam Davatchi

    Sam Davatchi Producer

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    Shows like Seinfeld and Friends wouldn't be the same without a laugh track. They need it, part of their success.
     
  14. Radioman970

    Radioman970 Lead Actor

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    For me, all of these things fall under nostalgia. I love that canned laughter on old shows for that reason. I remember hearing somewhere that the guy producing the canned laughter for SCTV didn't get the comedy and so that's why it sounds so weird. I love that! The cheesier the better.

    Oh, but I hate the ovation thing every time Fonzie (or ???) would walk on the scene. Reminded you that it was just a TV show. Takes me out of it.
     
  15. Walter C

    Walter C Screenwriter

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    Oh, I hated the loud cheers whenever Steve Urkel showed up onscreen. The #2 reason why I hate Family Matters now (#1 being the Laura Winslow character).
     
  16. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I don’t really agree with your premise: many, many people have objected to laugh tracks ever since the switch from live TV to filmed. One of the reasons that All in the Family (already mentioned) was such a breath of fresh air, was the shift back to live audiences.
     
  17. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    True, I definitely wouldn't want to lose the laugh track due to the fact that it enhances the scene, but everytime I watch that scene, I gringe a little because I can see how much Kramer is just sitting there, waiting to deliver the topper.
     
  18. Radioman970

    Radioman970 Lead Actor

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    (in Urkel voice): Ooooh! I'm hearing the K-word too much!!! (shakes fist at thread)

    *mild chuckles from the audience*

    :p

    One of the really great things about the Red Dwarf cast commentary was how much they discussed audience reaction and how important it was to their performances. If they had to perform parts of the show in advance (because of effects shots, etc.) they say they had to guess what the reaction would be and it didn't give them the same kind of immediate satisfaction, effecting their performance greatly. I guess that's the same as what I mentioned before with SCTV. Also, I believe I remember them saying that the audience was instructed not to do the celebrity applause and cheers like "Fonzie's entrance". A good idea. If the audience did it anyway they edit it out.

    Oh, one thing I've noticed recently while rewatching Sanford & Son (which had a live audience) was when they would be laughing before the viewing audience at home could see what they were laughing at. Isn't that an interesting side effect of the studio audience? You knew something funny was going to happen and you had to watch & wait some seconds before you got it too. [​IMG] Kind of neat though..... Sanford & Son had some lively ones. You can sometimes hear people saying things. Like when Julio's goat first makes an appearance you can hear a woman say "look at that!!" and laugh real loud.
     
  19. WillG

    WillG Producer

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    I'd take a dozen Urkel's over the "Hip" Grandma that "Family Matters" had
     
  20. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    James, I've noticed that too on other sitcoms...when the camera is panning to a big reveal, you can hear the audience (who already knows what the reveal is) in anticipation of the laugh or cheer. You can almost feel the stress of them holding back.
     

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